Sunday Afternoon In The Stacks

Miss Mussel spent a good part of today in the university library slaving away on a book project. It is the day before classes start and there is an eerie calm about the place. Students are either recovering from a week of frosh activity or only just arriving, smug in the knowledge that they know how the system works.

During a break, when the supply of Reese’s Pieces and water were still at an acceptable level, Miss Mussel took a stroll down to her old haunt – the M to MT section of the stacks. An unexpected joy overtook her as she wandered through the imposing rows of Urtext scores, the worn covers reminiscent of a childhood toy gradually disfigured by too much love. Neue Bach Ausgabe as Velveteen Rabbit anyone? A volume’s condition is indicative of it’s relevance to undergraduates. Mint condition–either new or neglected. Tattered beyond recognition–a coveted essay source.

Next is ML100 – the gateway to Music Literature and home of the indomitable New Grove Dictionary. After just a few glances, the many hours spent thumbing through its aging pages, searching for leads in term paper research came flooding back. For some reason, Miss Mussel always imagined Stanley Sadie looking like the Monopoly Man. Weird associations aside, his name is etched forever in Miss Mussel’s brain thanks to the careful transcription of an inconceivable number of bibliographic citations.

ML112-158 – the source of all good things. Several times, these slim, handsome volumes jump-started stagnated research. A knight in shining armour after a frustrating hour or two with the periodical index. The books were always in immaculate condition, as if they existed solely for Miss Mussel’s personal use.

Around the corner Shangri-La patiently awaited. The section is formally known as ML410 and contains biography as far as the eye can see in. There are thousands of books waiting to be devoured and an infinite number of facts and trivia to be absorbed. Sadly temporal restrictions and the limits of human brain win the day and the tour moves on.

Aesthetics, criticism, psychology and politics are all newly discovered friends on the invite list for a cup of tea when schedules can be favourably aligned.

MT brings on a sudden quickening of the heart. There, ensconced between The History of Music Instruction and Pedagogical Aids lies a section Miss Mussel was happy to leave at university:

Music Theory.

Its leader, Schenker, proved to be an especially unpleasant adversary, so much so that Miss Mussel didn’t learn until years later that the T in MT stood for teaching, not theory. Time does temper feelings once strongly held however and a few of the volumes in MT5-7 looked mildly inviting. Miss Mussel is mustering the courage to have a closer look on her next visit.

MT 949.5 proved to be a most entertaining new find. Turns out it’s the section the Library of Congress has devoted to the instruction of whistling.


  1. Alan Belk

    I came across your website while checking out Byrd’s Great Service. Keen to know your real identity I googled “Who is Miss Muscle” and was asked by Google if I really meant “Who is Miss Muscle”. Just how powerful is the critic? AB

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